WASHINGTON, D.C. — Before Congress grants Russia Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR), U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) have introduced legislation to ensure Russia upholds its trade commitments made under World Trade Organization (WTO) accession. The Russian World Trade Organization Commitments Verification Act of 2012I would require the United States Trade Representative (USTR) to hold Russia accountable— through annual reporting—for commitments made as part of its accession to the WTO. The legislation would also provide the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee a means to request enforcement action if the Administration does not act on its own.
“Ten years ago, China was granted WTO membership after proponents argued the measure would create jobs and boost freedom and the rule of law. After ten years and hundreds of thousands of American jobs lost, we’re seeing the same arguments made in support of granting Russia WTO membership. Our experience with China has shown that we must ensure our trading partners follow through on their commitments,” Senator Brown said. “This bill is a common-sense measure to help ensure accountability. We must make sure that Russia—and any country that makes commitments to earn greater trade facilitation—does not renege at the detriment to American workers, ranchers, and producers. Our country cannot afford more one-way trade that raises the trade deficit—nor should we turn a blind eye to the violations of our trading partners.”
“If we've learned anything from China's flagrant abuse of their membership in the WTO, it is that we cannot allow new members without appropriate protections and oversight,” said Senator Schumer. “We must make sure that all new members of the World Trade Organization meet their international obligations and Russia is no exception.”
“Trade enforcement is essential to protecting jobs here at home,” said Senator Rockefeller. “We have to make sure our trade partners abroad abide by the rules, and this bill would help make that possible.”
As part of its WTO accession, Russia must commit to lower or remove tariffs on manufactured goods, ensure predictability by capping quota levels and tariff rates for meat and poultry, and meet international standards on intellectual property rights, among other obligations. However, with 2011 marking ten years since China joined the WTO and ten years of Permanent Normal Trade Relations—a decade marked by a string of broken trade promises from the Chinese—the senators are working to ensure that the same lack of enforcement and oversight does not occur should Russia be granted PNTR.
Specifically, the Russian World Trade Organization Commitments Verification Act of 2012 legislation would require the United States Trade Representative (USTR) to issue an annual public report on the specific commitments made by Russia in its accession agreement, and request submissions from domestic production and service providers in assessing Russian compliance with that country’s commitments. Under the bill, the House Committee on Ways and Means and the Senate Committee on Finance would evaluate the annual reports and evaluate the compliance of the Russian government with its WTO commitments and, as to any compliance failures, the adequacy of U.S. government actions in gaining compliance. The Committees may also issue a non-binding resolution directing the USTR to take such action, as appropriate, to ensure complete compliance with Russia’s obligations.